NASCAR punishment fits the crime

May, 10, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Words you don't read here every day: NASCAR got this one right.

The governing body had no choice but to punish Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for Saturday night's postrace pit road confrontation at Darlington Raceway. The incident potentially put crewmen and NASCAR officials at risk when Busch shoved Harvick's car into the inside retaining wall as Harvick took a swing at him.

Knocking each other silly on the track in competition is one thing.

Endangering lives on pit road can't be tolerated.

Placing both of them on a four-race probation and fining them each $25,000 may seem like a slap on the wrist for those who aren't fans of either driver, but a slap is all that was needed.

To have docked either points would have been heading back down the slippery slope of over-governing that NASCAR vowed to get away from with "boys, have at it.''

To have put them on probation for the remainder of the season would have deprived us of the opportunity to see this rivalry grow when the probation ends on June 15.

As Harvick said Tuesday on Twitter, "I didn't say it was over.''

Let's hope not.

So now we all can look forward to the June 19 Michigan race and the rest of the season to see what happens, and there'll be plenty of opportunities since both race in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck series.

Keep in mind this feud wasn't born late in Saturday's race when Harvick and Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer wrecked in a three-wide racing incident with Busch. Harvick and Busch have been taking shots at each other in the Truck series for years.

And then there was last year's Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, when Harvick wrecked Busch with 25 laps remaining, ending Busch's season in a fiery crash.

Harvick didn't run away from the fact he wrecked Busch intentionally then, either.

"He raced me like a clown all day -- three wide, on the back bumper, running into me, and I just had enough," Harvick said at the time. "[He] cut me off and ran up in front of me. The last time I just didn't lift."

To which Busch responded, "I don't know where his brain is at, but it's obvious not all [the] wires are connected.''

And Harvick gave Busch what he considered good, friendly advice when Busch started his own Truck team last season.

"He's two-faced,'' Busch said at Homestead. "He'll talk to you all day long straight to your face and be the nicest guy to you, but when you get out there on the racetrack, he ain't your friend.''

Nor should Harvick be.

Same for Busch.

This is the stuff of rivalries. That Busch and Harvick should be competing for wins in all three series this season, and for wins and a championship in Cup this season and many more to come, makes this potential rivalry more likely to stick than others.

Say what you want about the reported physical confrontation inside the NASCAR hauler between Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya -- officials, by the way, made the right decision in not penalizing them -- rivalries are much more intriguing when those involved are battling for something more significant than a spot on the track.

Busch and Harvick already have two Cup wins each this season, with Busch third in points and Harvick fifth. They also have edgy personalities that will continue to rub each other the wrong way.

So, as Harvick suggested, this isn't over.

"Boys, have at it" will continue because NASCAR didn't overreact.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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